I will make a statement right now that pretty much defines the reason this song is on the list: I love the electric guitar.
Last month I was on a roll while writing this column and I included some of what I consider to be the best guitar-rock songs of all time: Television’s “Marquee Moon” and Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer.”
It got me thinking about THE band that defines the melodic dual guitar for the ages: Dublin’s best band, the highly underrated Thin Lizzy.
Thin Lizzy has so many great songs, it was hard to choose one. I chose the campy (yet somehow sincere) third single from their classic 1976 album “Jailbreak.”
“The Cowboy Song” endures because it has one of the catchiest, most memorable twin-guitar harmony leads ever. First, singer/songwriter/bassist/band leader Phil Lynott sings a somber refrain about his lonely time on the plains:
I am just a cowboy lonesome on the trail/A starry night, a campfire light/The coyote call, the howling winds wail/So I ride out to the old sundown
At :43, a muted version of the lick begins as a teaser. And then it happens. Founding member/drummer Brian Downey starts the drum buildup and there’s a brief preview of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson‘s sweet guitarmonies and the sweetness to come. One of the catchiest choruses Lynott ever wrote comes in at about 1:30.
Sure, the lyrics are cheesy. But somehow, along with the music, they actually manage to evoke the Old West. Later in the song, the guitar/drum breakdown makes me think of trotting horses. Lynott’s smooth delivery and staccato phrasing sets up the guitar explosion and then it’s off to the races at a full gallop!
If this song doesn’t put a smile on your face, then you must not like rock n’ roll.
The Great Songs series so far: